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The Death of Migrant Domestic Workers

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epa02787707 Indonesian migrant worker activists wearing black t-shirts, hold placards during a protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 21 June 2011. Dozens of activists staged a protest over the beheading of Indonesian housemaid Ruyati binti Satubi in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities executed Ruyati after the supreme court there issued a ruling that confirmed the death penalty for the Indonesian housemaid, who was found guilty of murdering her employer, Khairiya binti Hamid Mijlid, last year.  EPA/MAST IRHAM
epa02787707 Indonesian migrant worker activists wearing black t-shirts, hold placards during a protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 21 June 2011. Dozens of activists staged a protest over the beheading of Indonesian housemaid Ruyati binti Satubi in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities executed Ruyati after the supreme court there issued a ruling that confirmed the death penalty for the Indonesian housemaid, who was found guilty of murdering her employer, Khairiya binti Hamid Mijlid, last year. EPA/MAST IRHAM

The wealthy of Asia, especially in the Middle East, often hire southeast Asian domestic workers, especially from the Philippines. Like with the relationship between Latin America and the United States, remittances play a big part in the economy of these poorer nations. But we have been learning a lot about how the oil elites of the Arabian peninsula treat foreign workers thanks to the World Cup in Qatar. If anything though, the stories of those workers, as utterly horrifying as they may be, pale in comparison to the torture and violence committed on the workers brought into the homes of the uber-wealthy. This is just a brief excerpt from this gruesome report:

According to the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation, domestic workers are some of the most likely to face abuse and exploitation in their place of work. A number of cases in the past few weeks have made international headlines: an Indian domestic worker who had her arm chopped off, allegedly by her employer when she asked for her wages; a Saudi diplomat who reportedly tortured and raped his Nepalese domestic workers; another Saudi man videoed apparently molesting his foreign maid as she worked in the family kitchen. But these are just the stories we hear about; there are many more cases, documented by human rights groups, in which women have been gang-raped, burned with oil, starved, mutilated with acid or literally worked to death.

In the Gulf, the International Trade Union Confederation says that 2.4 million domestic workers are facing conditions of slavery. Yet moving abroad to find work as a domestic worker is a calculated risk that millions of women such as Marilyn take every year.

For a largely invisible workforce, domestic workers wield serious economic clout. Collectively, they account for 4% of total global employment and nearly 8% of total female employment. There are 1.5 million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia alone, and recruitment agencies fly in 40,000 women a month to keep up with demand. Muslim women from the Philippines are considered the highest calibre of workers in many richer households.

I don’t do a lot of trigger warnings, but this article gets a lot harder to read than what I excerpted. Incredibly awful.

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